The Snake

I used to like making small places outside. The first one I remember was under the back porch when we lived in a two family flat on Calvert in Detroit. The porch above wasn’t high enough up for me to stand up, but it wasn’t so low I had to crawl in. I found bricks around and built a two or three brick high wall around two sides. I don’t remember doing much out there after I got it together. I was about nine years old at that time. My sister remembers playing marbles there. I did make a nice, smooth dirt floor.

Me beside my quilt tent, held up on the former chicken house with bricks.

In Poppy’s and Nanny’s yard we made tents out of quilts. We would use them for the duration of whatever game we were playing. My Quilt Tent – 1958

Later when we lived on Oregon, I built a snow house against the garage one winter. Again, I don’t remember hanging around in it. After all it was winter in the 1950s when winter was freezing and snowy for months. I also cleaned up the garage and fixed it up as a place I could go. But it was a garage and I remember the smell wasn’t that pleasant. Rats around the garbage cans? I never saw any, but I gave that one up.

Building the stick and leaf hut.

At Old Plank, I made a stick frame and wove large leaves into it. As you can see I even built a campfire circle of stones and had a fire going at least once.

Enjoying a campfire in front of the hut.
Henry holding the long snake found in the hut

One morning I came out and found a snake curled comfortably inside. It was cool and the snake was sluggish. Henry did what he always did when coming upon a snake, he killed it. I don’t remember the particulars, did he beat it to death or did he shoot it? What sort of snake was it? Above he is holding it up for the photographer, probably my mother. I do remember an incident decades later in Idlewild when Henry did kill a snake at my Aunt Barbara’s with a blow as I tried to persuade him it was a harmless snake that ate mice. He paid me no mind.

18 thoughts on “The Snake

  1. Indeed, that was a long snake! Glad Henry was around to dispatch the snakes for you (even the harmless ones). Loved your various architectural small houses! You were quite creative!

  2. You did a lot of building! Wonderful to have the space, time and materials to build such a variety of structures. I don’t think I ever built anything more complex than a wooden block or Lego structure. I am so impressed! Glad you got some pictures of your creations too.

    1. Doing this post made me wish we had cleared out our yard here and fenced it so that the grandchildren would have been able to play out there. Space for a garden and space for the grandchildren to have a yard to use should have been among the important things to look for in a house.

  3. Yikes, I think I’d have been terrified to find that snake. I was never all that much of the “outdoorsy” type… I did play in the woods behind our house in my childhood, but I can’t recall ever building a hut. I went (or was sent away!) on a scout camp for a week once when I was about 11, but did not enjoy the “wildlife”…

    1. I didn’t like finding it there, but I don’t remember being terrified. We used to go to camp for a week for several years. I think we got more wildlife staying home. Girls didn’t get to camp out and I only remember one hike through the pine woods, which smelled wonderful. I always liked the outdoors and I miss it since we moved back to the city.

  4. really loved seeing all the different things that you built growing up! so interesting that you don’t remember necessarily hanging out in them but were consistent in building them across moves and years. they look like pretty sound structures and it was cool to see the different materials and techniques that you used ( like leaf weaving!). do you think you would still be able to build a sort of tent/shelter situation out of natural objects?

    1. If we were on the run and had to build a shelter, I could design it if you would build it. After I was an adult, my outside activity was designing and growing my gardens. I’m really sorry I didn’t look for a garden spot when we were looking for a house here.

  5. What a great story! In regards to the snake . . . sorry, a dead one is a good one in my book. I know that’s a “be kind to nature” thing to say. But, it is how I feel whenever I see one! ?

  6. This was a perfect spin on the Sepia Saturday theme. Snakes are general beneficial creatures to have around, though recently I met a man who suffered a very debilitating hand injury after being bitten by a copperhead snake that was hidden in his garden compost pile. When I has a kid I had a fake rubber snake about 3 feet long which I lost one winter. Later in the spring my dad was mowing the lawn and uncovered it. Believing it was a real snake (it looked like a rattlesnake) he quickly chopped off its rubber head. We always laughed at his story but I think he took some pride in at least following the proper country boy protocol in dispatching it.

  7. Ah, someone after my own heart! I’ve talked before about envying my cousin who had a real playhouse & how I wanted one so badly but had to settle for army surplus tent canvas draped over an old swing set, or a beach umbrella stuck in the ground with blankets & sheets clothes-pinned around it. Thinking back on the days spent playing in those make-shift ‘playhouses’ however, brings all kinds or wonderful memories just as you have for the private little places you built for yourself. And kudos for cleverly using the snake to match the prompt! 🙂

    1. I think the swing set would be a great frame for a canvas tent. You could even stand up in it. I thought of the snake photo as soon as I saw the prompt. Luckily I found it in time. My photos are in awful order these days. After I used them, I didn’t put them back where they should have been. I need to go through and fix that. It will save time in the end.

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